Today, IBM announced that it would be introducing in-kind grants to six school districts valued at $3 million to boost cybersecurity in schools. The grants will be for the school districts to sponsor teams of “IBMers” to assist in proactively preparing for cyberattacks.

The six grants will be $500,000 each and school districts can apply for them between Feb. 4 and March 1 of 2021. According to IBM, the grant comes in the wake of the FBI warning in December that nearly 60 percent of reported ransomware incidents between August and September of 2020 had involved K-12 schools, which was a 29 percent increase from prior months.

“In response to the growing ransomware attacks against schools, Morning Consult conducted a study, sponsored by IBM, of 1,000 U.S. educators and administrators in K-12 schools and colleges to better understand the level of cybersecurity awareness, preparedness, and training within schools during the shift to remote schooling,” an IBM press release said. “The results demonstrate the growing need for improved security education and skills, as more than half of U.S. educators and administrators have not received basic cybersecurity training from their institutions despite new remote learning protocols.”

From this survey that was conducted, IBM found that:

  • Nearly 60 percent of educators and administrators are unsure or haven’t received new cybersecurity training for remote learning, despite 78 percent saying they were utilizing some form of online learning;
  • Nearly 50 percent are unfamiliar with videobombing and nearly one in five saying their peers had experienced video conferencing related security issues;
  • Half of educators and administrators surveyed aren’t concerned about cyberattacks on their institutions;
  • While administrators are 20 percent more likely to receive cyber training than educators, they aren’t aware of critical information relevant to protecting their schools; and
  • Over half of educators and administrators said that their institution’s budget was a large or medium barrier in strengthening cybersecurity posture.

“While previously, IBM employees have helped local municipalities manage such cyberattacks, this initiative announced today will help formalize IBM’s community service efforts to help schools prepare for and respond to cyber threats,” the news release said.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is MeriTalk SLG's Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.